Hurricane Harvey exacerbated Houston residents’ publicity to hazardous chemical compounds
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Researchers at Oregon State University used silicone wristbands to measure Houston residents’ elevated publicity to hazardous chemical compounds within the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

The wristbands recorded exposures to 162 completely different chemical compounds, together with pesticides, flame retardants, industrial compounds, phthalates and polycyclic fragrant hydrocarbons.

Researchers adopted up with research contributors a yr after Harvey to approximate a baseline so they may parse out which exposures had been brought on by the storm. On common, 75% of the chemical compounds detected throughout each timepoints had been present in larger concentrations instantly after the hurricane, however individuals’s baseline publicity was already excessive.

Houston is one in all our most industrialized cities. When we glance a yr after the storm, we see that a number of neighborhoods which might be nearer to industrial zones -; socioeconomically deprived neighborhoods -; had larger concentrations of chemical compounds proper from the get-go, and that was solely exacerbated when the hurricane got here in.”

Kim Anderson, co-author, head of OSU’s Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology and the inventor of the research’s wristbands

The silicone wristbands take up chemical compounds from the air and from pores and skin contact, making them a helpful screening device. Anderson has used them in related research in Africa, Europe and South America.

Many of the chemical compounds recorded within the Houston research haven’t but been completely examined to find out their potential well being results, researchers stated. But some heavier polycyclic fragrant hydrocarbons have been discovered to be carcinogenic, and phthalate publicity can have adversarial results on reproductive well being.

The analysis group began work nearly instantly after Harvey made landfall, receiving approval for sampling inside every week and distributing wristbands for the research to 173 residents inside three weeks.

“At that point, flooding was still occurring. I think that’s a huge strength of this study,” stated co-author Diana Rohlman, affiliate professor in OSU’S College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “From the public health perspective, that’s the data people want: ‘I’m actively flooded, actively cleaning my house; what am I being exposed to right now?'”

This fast response is necessary, she stated, as earlier catastrophe responses had been slowed as much as six months ready on testing approval, similar to with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010.

The group additionally carried out a small pilot research of 27 residents inside the first 10 days after Harvey hit. Those 27 samples had the most important variety of chemical compounds from any research the researchers have finished wherever else on the earth, Anderson stated.

A significant concern in Houston was the variety of Superfund websites that had been broken by flooding after Harvey. Superfund websites are areas with extreme sufficient air pollution that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed them in want of federal mitigation efforts.

A 2020 report by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law discovered that 70% of Superfund websites nationwide are situated inside a mile of federal housing tasks, underscoring the disproportionate burden of air pollution positioned on low-income communities, most frequently communities of coloration.

The state of Oregon has 9 Superfund websites in whole; the town of Houston has 41. Of these, 13 had been flooded in the course of the hurricane, however the sum impact of that flooding is unclear, researchers stated.

“There is this pocket of contaminants that mobilized in the water, but they were also in five feet of rain, which could be a diluting factor,” Anderson stated.

Within the primary few days of the hurricane, 89 industries reported “unintentional releases,” Rohlman stated. Some vegetation in Houston shut down within the storm’s aftermath, which lowered their emissions, however the state of Texas additionally granted emergency exemptions from clear air necessities for manufacturing vegetation, so some might have been polluting extra, researchers stated.

In addition to chemical compounds unleashed by storm harm, the wristbands additionally recorded many chemical compounds utilized in widespread family cleaners, which residents had been uncovered to as they cleaned their properties after the flooding.

Until extra analysis is completed on the person chemical compounds recorded within the research, Rohlman stated they cannot provide particular security data apart from the usual advice to put on gloves and masks when cleansing up flooded areas.

Additional authors on the Houston research had been Samantha Samon, Lane Tidwell and Peter Hoffman at OSU and Abiodun Oluyomi at Baylor College of Medicine.

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